Wednesday, December 16, 2009

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

Here are the facts:
  • I wrote a book titled Betrayed.

  • I dedicated it to a young man, Austin Whetsell, who drowned while on a church mission trip.

  • I decided to dedicate 100 percent of the proceeds of book sales to Austin's memorial fund

  • Austin's father is close friends with Katon Dawson, the former S.C. GOP chair and runner up for the national post

  • I asked Katon, who I assumed had a large email list, to send out an email on my behalf in order to generate sales.

  • He did.
It rubbed some Republicans the wrong way, to say the least. It's almost like they're eating their own young. I'll let you read the posting at But here's a sample: "Using someone else's personal tragedy for self promotion should be illegal."

As you read through, you may notice that some in the party of accountability and transparency (that's said tongue-in-cheek BTW since none of the Republicans quoted as being upset identify themselves) are more "irked" that Katon sent them an email versus the email''s content. I suppose it's much too difficult in this crazy, fast-paced world to scroll down to the link that says "Unsubscribe."

No, no. It's more democratic to let the voice of dissent be heard.
I have felt bad for Katon all week. He did me a huge favor for nothing more than the asking. To have petty little wimps who decline to identify themselves air their infighting in a public forum is simply pathetic.

My name, dammit, is Sam Morton. I have a book to sell. I'm right proud of it. Any money I raise goes directly to the Austin Whetsell Memorial Fund at Lexington Presbyterian Church in Lexington, S.C. The fund uses the money to continue and support its mission work around the globe. I really hope you buy it, but if the simple act of asking you offends, then for the sake of my friends, QUIETLY pass it on by.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmm...

Things I wonder about:

1) I wonder why some people don't get my humor:

Me to the McAlister's Deli cashier: May I place a take out order?

Cashier: May I get a name?

Me: Why? Don't you have one already?

Cashier: (Blank stare).

2) As I posted on FaceBook last night, I listened to the President's speech and wonder, if it's Pockeestahn (Pakistan) and Tallybahn (Taliban), why is it not Afghoneestahn?

3) If we want to win the wars in Afghoneestahn and Iraq and also, as the President promised, to deplete our nuclear arsenal, wouldn't it make sense just to dump all the nukes on these two countries? Kind of a "two-birds..." deal?

4) I wonder if Nike would consider changing its slogan to "Just Do Her" on all its Tiger Woods merchandise?

5) If Trey Cyrus was not Miley Cyrus's brother, I wonder if he would be working at a Sonic drive thru rather than opening for her in concert? (No, never mind...I don't wonder about that. It's pretty much a given).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Things That Piss Me Off

Mitch Albom may have his five people he’ll meet in Heaven, but I’ve got five things that are pissing me off in the here and now. I realize from a macro point of view that none of this means anything. All these complaints are confined right here to my little house, but I believe they are rather universal concerns so here it goes:

Volume: This term may take on an alternate meaning when I have teenagers, but for the moment, I’m talking about how much trash one garbage container can hold. Nobody in my house, including me, is a physicist, but even I know that when the trash can is spewing trash, it won’t hold any more. Several times I’ve had to dig my hands through thrown away food because everybody pushes so much garbage in the thing that the liner gets crammed two-thirds the way down the can. No more. We’ll all die from mold spores before I do that again.

Spills: To my son—when you splash spaghetti sauce on the trashcan lid, it’s easier to wipe it away while it’s still moist. Daddy’s tired of chiseling dried tomato sauce.

Lights: The light at the top of the stairs doesn’t go off by magic and even if it did, the Light Fairy don’t live here. Need I say more?

Laundry: When there’s no laundry basket in the bathroom…GO GET ONE! I mean unless you’re going to grow up to be a serial killing dry cleaner and plan to hide bodies under stacks of shirts and towels, four-foot tall piles of clothes aren’t really that useful.

Laundry (Part II): I don’t mind washing, drying, folding, or even putting away, but the least you can do is BRING ME YOUR DIRTY CLOTHES! Put ‘em right here in my grubby little hands and I’ll do the rest. Want to go to school stinky or even naked? Test me on this.

Have a nice day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Of Steampunks and Hanukkah

When famed archeologist Howard Carter first peered through a small hole into King Tut’s tomb, Lord Carnarvon asked him if he saw anything. He replied, “Yes, wonderful things!” This is how I felt this past weekend when Nick Valentino introduced me to his brand new novel, Thomas Riley, and a genre of fiction called “Steampunk."

Nick and I were staffing the Echelon Press booth at the South Carolina Writers Conference. He’s an extremely nice guy, very approachable, and passionate about his book. He should be. I began reading it and didn’t want to stop. Now bear in mind, one’s job at a book festival or writers conference is to greet your patrons warmly, answer questions, and try to sell them books from the table. If I seemed a bit grumpy to any of the folks who stopped by the booth, my apologies. I was simply irritated because I had to put Thomas Riley aside in order to serve you. That’s how good this book is.

For those of you who, like me, haven’t a clue about what steampunk fiction is, Nick describes it as alternative history, Victorian era characters who invent and use some very forward technologies—think James West and Artemus Gordon in the old Wild West television series. It is appprently the new rage among teen readers. Nick’s book has air pirates, dirigibles, fancy inventions that his characters use deftly, action, and lots of adventure. As I read it, I kept hearing the Indiana Jones music playing in my head!

Though he didn’t write it specifically for teens, Nick is marketing the book as a young adult title. It would make a nice stocking stuffer for Christmas for anyone in your family who loves high adventure. You can buy it at or directly from the publisher at

After getting home from the conference, I took my kids to Halloween Express to buy some accessories for their costumes. On the way, Alexey said Halloween was his second favorite holiday, coming in behind Christmas.. Nikki said she really didn’t like Halloween and it didn’t even make her top three. I asked her what her favorite holidays were.

She considered it a moment, index finger over her lips, before she said, “I celebrate Christmas, Easter, and Hanukkah.”

Shalom, y’all.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Stimulus Cash and Research

Myra’s injured foot and the care she requires have renewed my interest in a subject matter that first appeared when our children were toddlers. I want to research a scientific phenomenon. I’m not certain what branch of science my investigation would fall under, but I’m leaning toward theoretical physics.

What I have observed, both today with Myra’s injury and years ago as a parent of pre-school children is this: there is a wedge of space ranging from three inches to six inches at its highest. It is the space created just before your butt hits the seat of the chair you’re about to sit down onto. At that very moment the person dependant on your care determines that they have to have something “before you sit down.”

This urgent matter of life and death did not occur to them 20 seconds ago when you were in the kitchen, nor can it wait until the next time you’re up. Oh, no, no , no…if you don’t get up right then to retrieve the Diet Coke, Kleenex, cell phone, computer power cord, whatever, then the world will simply stop on its axis and mountains will crash into the sea. Sure the person might back pedal a bit and say, “Well, next time you’re up would you get…” But you can hear the cosmic implications in the passive/aggressive tone of voice. “Well, next time you’re up…” readily translates into “I guess I could strain and struggle and hobble my crippled self over to get it.” The guilt becomes overwhelming and you pop up off the chair like it is a trampoline.

The wedge of space must have a name, and I want to know what it is. President Obama, may I have some money please?

Monday, October 12, 2009


I’m waging an economic war against McDonalds, and not for the reasons you might think. Sure they serve unhealthy food, deep fried and slathered in sauces that flow with death rivers of trans fats. But I declare my war for another reason—the company’s insidious plot to bring America to its knees.

The McDonalds (or MACK-Donalds, as my father and grandmother used to call it) near my home used to be my barometer for the national economy. When times were bad, smart people got laid off from real jobs and in desperation sought employment with Mickey D’s. As a happy result, though, other patrons and I got superior customer service.

When economic times were brighter, the company hired whatever riff-raff that dragged through the door and could make a pencil mark or two on an application.

Obviously, I am neither an expert in economic liberalism nor the works of Adam Smith. My economic theory has failed, and in its desperate crumbling, I have undergone an epiphany of sorts: McDonalds is not out to serve us, but to destroy us.

How are they doing this you might ask? By giving stupid people—truly stupid people—a way to make money without requiring even a smidgeon of intelligence. McDonalds is the bastion of ignorance.

What other conclusion is there when you order two snack wraps, a double cheese burger and a tea—repeating the order not once, but twice, and then repeating it a third time while arguing over the check—and wind up driving away with three snack wraps and four chicken McNuggets? It borders on the surreal.

They don’t even require their employees to read. They put PICTURES of the different menu items on the register keys, for God’s sake.

McDonalds not only contributes to the overall educational malaise of our already intellectually deficient state, it contributes to the rise in drug distribution—anecdotally speaking, of course. The question often cited by the do-gooders of our fair country when trying to curb drug use is this: “Kids say all the time, ‘Why should I work at McDonalds for minimum wage when I can sell drugs and make more money?’”

Why indeed? Why would a kid with even a modicum of reasoning ability even walk into a McDonalds? Faced with such a quandary, who wouldn’t choose to sell a “McDarvocet” versus a McDouble?

I have eaten at the McDonalds in the Atlanta airport where every employee is Jamaican. I’ve eaten at a McD’s in London. I’ve even eaten at one in Moscow where nobody spoke English, and in all received great service. But walk into a McDonalds in America (or perhaps just any one in South Carolina) and you can feel the IQ level in the room drop by 30 points, and your order will be wrong 70 percent of the time—guaranteed.

Encourage your children to study and study hard. Education is the key to restoring America to its prominence. Unfortunately, education and intelligence are the two things you will find lacking at the nation’s favorite fast food restaurant.

Join me in my rant and boycott of the Golden Arches. We walk through them at our own peril and toward our own doom.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Toes Can Be Tasty

So Myra’s foot surgery was a success, though to look at her appendage in all its purple, swollen glory, only the surgeon himself would dare say, “It looks good!”

Alas, it appears I am the one who now needs foot surgery of my own—to remove mine from my mouth.

Myra’s taken care of me numerous times over the course of my many ailments, so I am gratified to be able to help. I can’t seem to relieve her pain, but at least I can get her water and her medication, get her food, and help her move tenuously from the couch to the lavatory and back.

So I was truly only joking yesterday when I ran to the bank to make a deposit. A teller in the bank knows Myra and asked about her. I gave my report. Then the coup de grâce came when she asked, “And how are you doing as the caretaker?”

I said, rather jokingly I thought, “I’m just glad to have a few moments to spend around people who can walk!”

Just then, as the last four words of that sentence came out of my mouth, emerged from around a corner the only permanently disabled employee the bank has—a woman who uses a walker. And I wonder sometimes why Nikki has no brain-to-mouth filter. Go figure.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Nikki, The Caretaker

So tomorrow is the big day. We, or better said, Myra goes in for surgery on her ankle. There may be screws involved. She will definitely have a device called an external fixator hooked on her foot. Ouch.

In the four weeks leading up to the surgery, she’s been in a cast of some sort or other. Her movement has been restricted and slow. The kids and I have done our best to wait on mommy hand and ah…foot.

We went in for our pre-op visit with the surgeon today. I think Myra’s a little nervous, but leave it too Nikki to solve that problem. We were on the way to dinner tonight—Myra can’t eat after midnight and the surgery is not until 5:00 tomorrow afternoon—when Myra said to me, “Thank you for taking such good care of me.”

I said, “You’re welcome.”

Nikki piped up from the back seat, “And me too?????”

“Yes, Nikki, you too.”

Then Myra said to me, “You’re a good caretaker.”

I said thanks again and Nikki asked, “Me too???”

“Yes, Nikki. You too.”

Nikki replied skeptically, “Really? ‘Cause I don’t hear you sayin’ me too!”

Woe be to the poor emasculated sap who becomes her boyfriend.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Playing Footsie

When our kids were small and just beginning to walk, we’d have them “sit & scoot” up and down the stairs, afraid they might fall had they tried maneuvering on toddler legs. It’s been a throwback to the past this week, as my wife, in a cast up to her knee, has had to sit and scoot her way up and down between the two floors.

She says we have to come up with a better story, but truly her injury involved no alcohol of any kind. She simply missed a step walking from the higher level of a deck to the lower at Myrtle Beach. She’s always had weak ankles, but she was doomed this time from the first forward motion. Her heel caught the edge of the step, her toes caught air, and gravity did the rest, bending, twisting, and turning her ankle inward. She fell completely to the ground. Even Snap, Crackle, and Pop would’ve winced.

I’ve noticed something about my wife in the past 23 years: when she’s in severe pain, she rocks back and forth like an Orthodox Jew. She also cusses like a sailor. This particular injury had her doing both and dropping an “F” bomb here and there. All in all it was like watching a Hassidic porno flick, except she still had her clothes on.

I pulled our van up and off we went to the Grand Strand Emergency Room. It’s quite obviously the place to be whether you are suffering from severe sunburn or a heart attack. The waiting room even smells like coco butter.

They were indeed efficient, taking us right back and packing ice around Myra’s ankle. We had to fill out the typical admissions paperwork, but oddly enough, Myra’s answer to every question the admissions lady asked was, “Can you give me something for the pain?”

Lady: “In the last six months have you been outside the country or been in contact with anyone who has been outside the country particularly to Canada or Mexico?”
Myra: “Can I have some drugs, please?!”
Lady: “Would you like me to get you a rabbi or a perhaps dreidel?”
Myra: “Dreidel, schmeidel! How about some valium, *&^%$#-er?”

After four tries with two nurses and three IV needles, they find a vein, in goes the liquid Percocet, and Baptist Myra returns. We were confident we’d receive good care, though I did overhear a conversation between two nurses that gave me pause to question the competency of one:
Nurse 1: “I got to bring my grandbaby back with me after my visit with my daughter.”
Nurse 2: “Ahhh, isn’t that nice. How old is he?”
Nurse 1: “He’ll be four-and-a-half in February!”
Me (to myself): “WTF?”

Myra’s x-ray showed no fractures. But her foot was swollen up like a baking potato and her toes looked like little sausages (Did I mention this fall took place just as we were about to eat dinner?). Kind of made me hungry for wiener schnitzel. Myra didn’t care. She was counting the imaginary butterflies on the ceiling.

So now we’re home. We’ve been to see the good looking orthopedic doc and we’re in a cast. We’ve had cat scans and MRIs. Ligaments are torn and it looks like some bones have shifted, but she insists on doing the “Butt Scootin’ Boogie” up and down the stairs.

Yesterday I stopped her just before she began her descent. I looked her deep in the eyes and said to my wife whom I love dearly, “Wait! Let me spray some Pledge on your ass and you can polish the stairs on the way down.”

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and yes dear friends, I am still limber enough to duck a flying crutch while being told to go to hell by my Hassidic Baptist bride.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Joke of the Day

One Sunday during the middle of church services, the devil walked into the sanctuary and up to the pulpit. Everybody, including the preacher ran screaming from the building, except for one man who sat in the third row, arms crossed, leaned back and relaxed.

"DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" the devil shouted.

"Sure, I do," the man said. "You're Satan."


"No," the man said. "I'm not."


"Because I've been married to your sister for 30 years."

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jenny, Jenny. Who Can I Turn To?

My wife sent me an email the other day informing me she had signed us up for the First Ladies’ Walk for Life to benefit breast cancer research. This is at least the 10th year we’ve signed up—I’ve got the XXL t-shirts with the pink ribbon logo to prove it. But since heartbroken Jenny barreled out of the Governor’s Mansion last month, I’ve noticed something a little hinky in the advertising.

The commercials airing now no longer call it the First Ladies’ Walk. They have pulled a little switch and are calling it the Palmetto Health Walk for Life. Jenny said she was going to maintain her responsibilities as first lady of the state. Perhaps, though, she has another Vogue cover to pose for. Or maybe she’s planning her next “spontaneous” news conferences in the driveway of her beach home so she can tell us again how committed she is to saving her marriage, yada, yada, yada…

So I say we trash this whole “First Ladies’” thing—City of Columbia First Lady Beth Coble has been noticeably absent from the commercials, too—and go in an entirely different direction. I propose we rename the event the First Mistress’s Weenie Walk for Cancer.

Think about it. It would be a PR person’s dream. For the first five days of advertising, we could swear up and down we were going to have the walk on the Appalachian Trail. Then we’d confess to having it in downtown Columbia after all. If we could possibly persuade Governor Sanford to participate, he could step out bold and strong and say he’d take no donations to the event unless he could fire and replace the committee who planned it (if that’s too local a reference, Google Sanford and the SC Employment Security Commission). Then he could file a lawsuit threatening not to take any donations unless the planning committee agreed to cut its budget by that same amount of money.

We’d enforce a rule that you have to walk with a partner called a “sole” mate. Whoever could elude security and pop back up at the mansion unannounced would be declared the winners.

Then the guv could apologize over and over and over for whatever.

After the walk, we could all meet back at the mansion to eat some crow, roasted weenies, and “Im- peach” cobbler. It’s making me giddy just thinking about it.

When the actual walk happens, Jenny, I don’t know where you’ll be. In your individual news conferences, you and the guv both have begun sentences with “The Bible says…” I get the feeling that both of you believe you’re closer to God than the rest of us. I’m pretty sure the Bible says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Maybe you could put aside your pathetic marital difficulties, and your obtuse pontifications on them, for two hours to help save some people who are DYING.

Just a thought.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Dog Ate My Homework...Or Something Like That

I knew I was in trouble the first day of school this year. On the way, both kids were excited, and a little bit nervous. You can tell Nikki’s excited because she talks—constantly. She talks constantly anyway, but Monday, she was talking like a squirrel on helium—a sort of high-pitched chatter. When she gets this way, I always think about lending her out to the CIA to help break high-level al Qaeda operatives.

I would do it, too, but they probably couldn’t have her back by bedtime, unless they have one of their secret prisons in West Columbia. Which they very well may. There are a lot of inexplicable things over in West Columbia people don’t know about like a knick-knack place that also sells fresh peaches and tomatoes. No other produce—no okra, or green beans, nothing, but I digress.

As a lawyer friend of mine from Memphis says when he meanders from his main thought, “So, anyway…” Nikki brings home her math homework. She does it. I check it. Now granted, I ain’t exactly Pythagoras, but I seem to remember that 14 minus 9 does not equal 15. I’m thinking she may be the next Bernie Madoff or perhaps the next Cash for Clunkers Czar.

We erased. And erased. We put 9 in our heads and counted up to 14. We got it right.

Then today there was a note from her math teacher in her agenda (that’s what my kids’ school calls its assignments book): “Nikki needs to turn in her summer work.”

I cringed. I had thrown it away when we were done!

When the report cards come out for the last day of school, they come with a packet of summer assignments: reading and math. The reading comes with specific instructions on whether or not book reports are required, and if so, they are due on day one the following year. Ironically enough, the instructions for the more specific of the two disciplines, math, are more ambiguous.

The kids get one math problem per day to complete over the summer. Our general “M.O.” is to do a week’s worth in one sitting. I distinctly remember asking my son, Alexey, on the first day of school last year whether the teacher had collected his summer math work. No, was his answer. I remember it because I felt rather bitter—not at having them take the time to complete it—but at having held onto all summer for the purpose of turning it in.

I moved it from one pile to the next, mixed it in with my papers, and unmixed it again. I attached it to the fridge with a magnet, only to have it fly halfway across the kitchen every time I opened the door in search of the queso dip—all just to by “psyched” by the math teacher in some great game of “arithmetic” chicken.

Only it appears this year, I am the one who flinched. Like the final scene of “Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark,” I can hear the ominous dirge in my head. I can envision zooming in on the wind-blown, sun bleached, missing math papers in some large anonymous landfill. Scribbled in No. 2 pencil in the answer block for June 26 is the equation, “16 + 21= 8.” The papers are covered with caramel candy apple goo, crumpled, and anchored to the dump by a large clod of dirt. Never to be seen again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What I Did on My Summer Vacation by Sam Morton

My wife and I like to watch Criminal Minds. She records it and we settle onto our plush little corner of the couch, remote in hand, to watch it after the kids go to bed. Each episode begins and ends with some obscure quote by Yeats or Coleridge or some other literary figure we avoided studying in college. It sets the philosophical tone of the episode.

Here’s an example: “The belief in a supernatural source of evil is not necessary. Men alone are quite capable of every wickedness.” Joseph Conrad said that.

I’d like to offer my own quote to set the tone for today’s blog: “Any man who does not embrace death has never been on vacation with his in-laws.”

I’m not talking about my wife’s immediate family: mom, dad, sister, two brothers and their wives and kids. I’m talking about all them plus close to 50 more relatives. As people all over the world have said, “There ought to be a law.”

My wife and I have had this discussion a number of times. Granted neither one of us is a trained sociologist, but here’s the point I’ve made to her repeatedly (usually during or right after a family vacation): You spend the first 18 years of your life trying to get away from these people. Why then, do you spend the next 40 trying to “get the family together?” It’s like a forced marriage.

Her counter is that I’m male, and therefore stupid, and should just shut up. “It destroys one’s nerves to be amiable every day to the same human being.”—Benjamin Disraeli.

The vacation rules were, as I understood them, that we (since Myra set up and administered the Yahoo group site for the trip) would say, “Tuesday at 10 a.m., we’re going to the Washington Monument.” Or to paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the “shining phallus on the hill.” Then others could join us or not. The choice is theirs.

Now, I’m not a trained sociologist, but it seems to me if you’ve thrown the plan out there and all 50 billion of your relatives have traveled from their home galaxy to be with family, ah...we most likely gonna have a crowd. So here, my friends, is the salient question:

How do you get 50 trillion Fraileys (yes, they’re like bunnies. Every time you turn around, there’s more of them) to move at the same time, in the same direction, toward the same destination?

The answer: The same way you divide any number by zero: It is a mathematical impossibility. IT CAN’T BE DONE!

My family gatherings are much simpler. First off, as my daughter summed up one day, “So, Daddy, let me get this straight. Other than you, Uncle Mike, and Aunt Cathy, pretty much everybody in your family is dead?” Bingo, kid. It’s called heart disease. Other than about a dozen aunts, uncles, and cousins, she hit the nail on the head.

I have one cousin who “don’t take to people.” The last family reunion we had, he climbed up a tree and “throwed up.” That’s why we don’t have family reunions anymore.

When I was a kid, they were fun because we had this older relative who had Tourette’s. In the middle of a sentence, he’d throw his head back and let out a sound like a whooping crane. Everybody called him “Whoop.” The reunions were simple affairs—Big K Cola, big bags of generic Kroger cookies, potato salad, and ham and cheese roll-ups (“the hardest part is takin’ the plastic off the cheese!”).

Even Whoop probably wouldn’t come to a reunion with people throwing up from the trees. And he damn sure wouldn’t come to one with 50 gazillion people trying to be at the same place at the same time. Just an observation.

“The family. We were a strange little band of characters trudging through life sharing diseases and toothpaste, coveting one another’s desserts, hiding shampoo, borrowing money, locking each other out of our rooms, inflicting pain and kissing to heal it in the same instant, loving, laughing, defending, and trying to figure out the common thread that bound us all together.” ~Erma Bombeck

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hamster Wars--The Final Chapter

In all the sound and fury in the saga of my daughter’s hamster(s), a good story got lost. My son got a hamster on the same day. His hamster, Gibbes, never got out, never got away, and never bit. He played on his wheel. He would let you pet him. He was great. My son cleaned his cage, played with him, and bought him little hamster toys.

Sadly, our faithful servant, Gibbes, bit the dust last week. I guess the ceremony we’ve gone through in the last few months with grandparent funerals has had some sort of effect. Alexey, 11 years old, planned and executed a grand funeral for his furry friend.

Last Thursday, Gibbes was interred at, ahem…”Harlington” National Cemetery on a hill overlooking Gran and Pop Pop’s house. His flag draped coffin (a wooden cigar box. The flags were the kind you wave at parades. Alexey removed the sticks) was borne to the graveside by a remote control tank. He was awarded the honor of a “flyover” by an Air Hog remote control helicopter, a 21-firecracker salute, and the firing of four skyrockets from Pop Pop’s barbecue pit. Alexey eulogized his friend, placed him in the grave and covered him with dirt.

Aside from the humor, I’m truly proud of the way my son reacted to losing his first pet. It’s not an easy thing. There were some tears, but almost immediately, he began formulating a way to honor his fallen friend. That’s respect, and that’s a good thing.

Because Gibbes was so small a creature, I suppose the mourning period is as proportionately short. Yesterday we went (at my peril) back to PetSmart to look at guinea pigs. Yikes!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Anthony Labrozzi. A Man's Man

We lost another hero Tuesday. Col. Anthony Labrozzi joined his beautiful wife, Anne, in Heaven. He, battle-worn; he, who answered his country’s call to honor; he, whose life was riven by the plowshare of not one but three wars, has reported in to the angel of angels, the Prince of Peace.

For us, the tears flow. Our eyes are blurred by the moisture of grief, though we know the Colonel is in a place of everlasting grace. And once again, he is with his beloved.

He was a man of action, a soldier’s soldier; a man of spit and polish, and above all, order. The Colonel and Anne blessed this world with four children—Scott, Steven, Tina, and Cara. I was not privileged enough to know his sons. I only know that they are men like their father, stout of faith and strong in the love of their families.

It has been my honor for more than 25 years to know his daughters. I have been to his house at most once in my life. It is a house carpeted with love. His kitchen table is infused by the gentle perfume of tens of thousands of baked cookies and roasted turkeys, absorbed through year after year of family time. His hallways echo with the laughter of his children as they grew up and now with the peals of chatter from his grandchildren. And who can forget the endless summer splash of the pool? This is the life for which he fought, and it embraced him in thanks and goodwill.

Men of the Colonel’s generation use words like honor, liberty, freedom, justice, compassion. For them, these words had tenor and meaning. He and his compatriots took enemy fire for them. Like many of his breed, he was a quiet man—stoic and proud. Yet at the same time, he found a way to be immensely selfless.

If a man’s legacy is judged by the children he leaves behind, then the Colonel’s is secure. His daughters are by no means stoic. I’m rather certain neither one knows what the word means. They are just the opposite—effusive, loving, demonstrative, compassionate to a fault. And these…these are the lives the Colonel fought for. May God bless him.

No one truly leaves this world until there’s no one around who remembers him. We remember Colonel—though our recollections may come to us amidst a flood of tears or through the gauzy haze of time—we remember. We bid you peace now, peace and gentle slumber. Your battle is won.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Oh Governor, My Governor!

My publisher tells me that because I have a young adult novel coming out in October, and because this blog is a mechanism to promote the book, I should veer more toward topics that appeal to tweens, teens, and their parents and away from more “adult” topics and language (i.e. my rant against KFC a couple of months ago).

I agree; however, I have gotten call after call asking me when I am going to blog on Governor Sanford and his revelation of his affair. Karen, I promise to be a better teen blogger, but really, the phone is burning in my hand. It is less personal than it is political, so here it goes:

If you’re keeping score, Mark Sanford has slept with his wife and a woman from Argentina, but that’s in addition to the 3.4 million South Carolinians he’s screwed. I don’t know if he has had an erection that has lasted more than four hours, but he really should see a doctor.

Truthfully, I couldn’t care less about his dalliance. Didn’t care about Clinton’s. Don’t care about this one. As a matter of fact, The State newspaper has patted itself on the back so much about its “investigation” and WIS-TV has covered this situation so thoroughly that I’m praying for a category 4 hurricane to form off the coast just to give them, and us, a break.

This bizarre episode began when people began questioning Sanford’s absence. He, according to them, abandoned the helm of state government for six days. Here’s a news flash people: we haven’t had a governor at the helm for six-and-a-half YEARS. This guy couldn’t give two hoots (how’s that for PG-13?) about the people of South Carolina and he’s done his level best to prove it over the two terms of his office. We’re just too stupid, too good-ol’-boy, too backward, too set in our ways to try it Mark Sanford’s way. As Conan O’Brien said, “he even outsourced his mistress.”

And while he’s been maneuvering politically, espousing his libertarian philosophies, waxing poetic on the sovereignty of the state and the executive branch of government, we’ve managed to acquire the 2nd highest unemployment rate in the nation, an Employment Security Commission too distracted by Sanford’s power grab to be effective, a 39th-in-the-nation education system further threatened by his refusal to take stimulus money, and rising tuition costs eroding our access to higher education.

I know I’m going to tick off a lot of people by saying this, but right now if Mark Sanford could make any of those situations better, he could “dally” with a barnyard full of monkeys every night for all I care. But the point is he can’t. If everybody else (with the exception of your total of 17 friends) says the sky is blue and you say it’s purple, insist it’s purple, threaten to replace people who claim that it’s anything but purple, and yet people still say it’s blue, governor, then maybe you—you, you, you!!—are the one who needs to re-examine his premises.

Sanford was politically emasculated long before Jenny Sanford’s statements to the Associated Press. So my take? If you’re not going to resign, then go sit in a corner somewhere and shut up. Go to a ribbon cutting or two, host a Christmas reception at the mansion, go violate a few more environmental regulations at your mama’s Coosaw plantation, REALLY go hiking along the Appalachian Trail, preferably after the bears are done hibernating, or follow your heart and move to Argentina, but leave us toothless, cousin-marrying, moonshine drinking, fiscally irresponsible, heftily unemployed South Carolinians alone! Have a nice day.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Not That I'm a Perfect Parent, But...

My son is going to baseball camp this week at the University of South Carolina. Ray Tanner coaches the team there and I doubt you would find anyone, even among his toughest opponents, who would say anything less than complimentary about him. Alexey scored a run and caught a pop fly today. Pretty good for a kid who had never held a baseball bat in his hands eight months ago.

There are so many kids in camp they have them divided into eight squads. Toward the middle of the day, the counselors will pair the squads for scrimmage games. In the one closest to me, one kid hit a ball he obviously thought went foul because he stopped running midway to first base. The counselor said it was a fair ball and by that time the first baseman had retrieved it and stepped on the bag. The hitter was called out.

The ball may not have been foul, but the kid was. He looked all of nine, but he took off his batting helmet, slammed it on the ground, and began arguing with the counselor who promptly benched him for the remainder of the scrimmage.

At the end of the camp, the kid came toward his grandfather who asked why he had acted so poorly. The kid screamed at the man telling him it was a fair ball. When his grandfather said, “Well the umpire called it the other way,” the kid, again screaming at the top of his lungs, said, “Well he’s a LIAR. He’s nothing but a LIAR!” And then, bat bag in hand, he stormed off.

I’m not praying that the kid won’t show up tomorrow. I’m praying that he can't. If there is a shred of discipline in this kid’s family, his ass will be redder than a stop sign and he’ll be pulling belt leather from between his butt cheeks for the next six weeks. Either that or his parents need to take the kid to psychologist for some anger management. Passion for the game is one thing. Disrespect is another.

I’m glad Alexey got to witness it, though. From his wide-eyed look, I could see that he knew this was unacceptable behavior. And as unfortunate as the incident was, I’m glad I saw it, too. It makes me appreciate the wonderful young man and young woman who are my children.

(Okay, that’s too cheesy an ending…I would liked to have seen grandpa beat the kid’s ass from one end of the stadium to the next. I bet Ray Tanner would've liked that, too. I’m just sayin’.)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Elvis Is Dead. So is Twitter. And Karen Has Me in Her Sights!

This week I raised the ire of my publisher, Karen Syed, by posting to our group site a link to an article from that indicated 95 percent of all bloggers and Twitter account holders abandon their accounts after a short while. Karen is a big Twitter fan.

I respectfully disagree.

Used correctly, I believe Twitter could—I stress could—be a great communications tool. But when I log on, I get “fewer than 140 characters” about people sitting in traffic, stopping for doughnuts, or even going to the john. And I care about this crap (pun intended) why?

I mean Ashton Kutcher—never mind that he’s married to someone on which I used to have a crush—hypes Twitter for God’s sake. That right there should tell you this technology is evil.

But I’m willing to be proven wrong (even through the blogosphere I can hear the snarky comments about how I should be used to it). So here’s my challenge. Send it to all your Twittering friends: Get me 500 Tweets on my account between June 15, 2009 and July 15, 2009 and I will donate $200 to the American Heart Association in Karen Syed’s name.

Hold on, as pitchman Billy Mays would say, “But wait, there’s more!”…get me 1,000 Tweets in the same time frame and I will deliver the check to my local AHA representative wearing a thong, a wig, lipstick, and what my wife calls “hooker shoes.” I will have it photographed and posted on FaceBook. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth going all the way, baby.

Fewer than 500 and I challenge Karen to post Tweets to all her friends declaring, “Citadel graduate Sam Morton is a technological genius!”
Find me at:

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Case of Mayor Bob's Oddly Green Colon

I unashamedly admit that I used to be a hardcore fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation, the one with Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean Luc Piccard, with Data, Troy, LeForge, Riker, and Worf. In one episode, a god-like character named “Q” takes the Enterprise and her crew to the beginning of life, that period of time where cells came alive and divided, giving them a glimpse into the primordial soup that eventually ended up as humans.

I have heard the term “going postal,” or the more up to date term “going educational,” since it first exploded (pardon the pun) into pop culture. Last week, though “Q” didn’t pay me a visit, I believe I got a glimpse into how such wildly violent episodes begin. Let me set the stage:

We had just returned from Virginia from two funerals (Myra’s grandparents). Just before our departure, I put our van in for an oil change…let’s be clear—an oil change. One alternator, two pinched belts and $520 later, we got our van back. While the van was in for its, ahem, oil change, I leaned against the kitchen counter wondering what else could go wrong. Looking up, I got my answer.

Let me be brief: one attic heating and air system, two malfunctioning overflow pans, five gallons of water through a wall and two ceilings in four rooms. Need I say more?

Let’s see, oh yeah, Nikki got sick and puked on my legs.

I also got word that a friend and Citadel classmate had inoperable cancer and was not expected to live through the week. (He died Sunday).

Then I walked out of my house and sitting on my trash roll cart was a fluorescent green tag. I, according to my city’s zoning police, had put my trash cart out too early. I am subject to a $500 fine and confiscation of my roll cart and would have to pay $75 to get it back.

My fair city has a $28 million budget shortfall. It has had three incompetent city managers in five years. It has had one incompetent police chief (who got promoted to city manager) and another chief who disobeyed his own procedural rules and left under fire. It has not closed its financial books in the past three years, does not know how much money it actually has or owes, has paid some of its bills twice and some never. For three years, we gave more than $300,000 to a music festival that never made one penny’s profit. Our state police staged a raid and seized our own water plant for forging records on water purity.

And yet my too early roll cart is the biggest problem it has for the present.

Alexey, my 11-year-old son, asked me the other day what I would change about my growing up if I could. I told him I was always an appeaser and I wish I would have learned a lot earlier in my life to tell people who pissed me off to go to hell.

It may have taken me longer than most, but that’s the message I left my mayor on his answering machine right after I told him where he could shove his little green sticker. I left him my name and address in case he wanted to discuss it. Mr. Emerson had it right when he said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

Beam me up, Scotty. There is no intelligent life in city hall.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Hitler and the Pole Dancer

My sister and my mother-in-law both tried to warn me. Several of my friends with older children tried their best to tell me, too. “Watch what you say in front of your kids. They soak it up like sponges.” But did I listen? Of course not.

Thus we have these nuggets from the last week:

As many of you know, my wife’s grandparents died within a week of each other. We drove to Virginia for both funeral services and stayed at one of the new “suite” hotels that are all the rage. It had an indoor pool and we had about a half dozen kids aged 2-12 years old with all the assembled family. My daughter asked to go swimming and by asked I mean she jumped up and down tugging her mother’s shirt sleeve, yelling, “Pleeeeeeeeeease?” When Myra said yes, my daughter was naked in a flash, ready to put on her swimsuit.

We have kidded Nikki for years about becoming a pole dancer due to her “heightened” sense of fashion, shall we say. Once she came down stairs wearing knee high black patent leather boots, a cheerleader skirt that was way too short, and a top that on an older girl would have been aptly called a sports bra. She expected to go to the mall this way. I said to her, “Nikki, a hooker from Jersey just called. She wants her clothes back.”

“Huh?” she said. She wasn’t listening, but apparently, my son was.

When she so rapidly took off her clothes in the hotel room to get ready to go swim, I said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody get naked that fast.”

My son Alexey—dry wit that he is—said, “Yeah. That’ll serve you well in your later career.” She stuck her tongue out at him and got in her bathing suit.

At the funeral home, the half dozen cousins were sitting down waiting to be ushered in the chapel. Nikki had been in to see Grandpa in his casket, a decision we didn’t make lightly. When she came out tears in her eyes, she sat beside a cousin and said, “Grandpa is in Heaven. Jesus is taking care of him.”

The cousin very pointedly said, “Uh-uh…Jesus is a baby, so who’s taking care of him, huh??” Theology 101 or perhaps one too many viewings of Talladega Nights.

Later one of the adults told me that Nikki, still a bit teary-eyed, sat down beside her and said, “Grandpa fought in World War I against Hitler. Grandpa is in Heaven, but Hitler is in hell ‘cause he killed 600 people.” (Math is not her strong suit).

At least she listened this time.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Goodbye to The Colonel and the Lady

I usually try to be funny on these postings. With every other blogger weighing in on everything from politics to the economy, who needs another uninformed rant? But today I want to take a minute to honor a couple of people. There’s no humor here—sorry to disappoint.

It’s been a tough week for my wife who has lost her paternal grandmother and paternal grandfather within a week of each other. Homer and Betty Frailey were married nearly 30 years. They were divorced just as long. Every wedding and graduation in the family had the potential to be a tense affair—at least that’s what the rest of us thought—but these were classy people who appreciated what most of us often don’t realize: it was never about them. The events were about the people at the center of them.

Lt. Col. Homer Frailey, USAF (Ret.) was a hero. He served in not only WWII, but also Korea and Vietnam. As a friend of mine likes to say, you can only poke a snake so many times before you get bit. Grandpa put his life on the line in not one, but three wars—not police actions, not “conflicts,” but full blown wars—for us, for our liberty, for us to have the ability to live with a reasonable certainty of safety, for us to have the freedom to go to a park, a mall, a ballgame, or even to hold a protest sign against the very country he fought for. That’s what heroes do. But you’d never know it. He was as humble a man as you’d ever want to meet, even if his jokes were corny. He never expected accolades or congratulations for doing what he saw simply as his duty. Heroes never do.

Betty Frailey was a firecracker of a woman. She may have minced meat for a pie, but she never minced words. Grandma had a presence about her. She was no nonsense, direct, and suffered no fools, but she was also a loving, compassionate, pillar of strength. She liked confidence and if you had it, she loved you. She was a hero, too. After eschewing a career for herself to get transferred from one air base to the next in every part of the word, or worse yet, after having to stay behind to raise four hellion, er…rambunctious boys while her husband went to war, Betty discovered upon her divorce that she was not entitled to any of her ex-husband’s military benefits. She didn’t think that was fair, and though she never benefitted personally, she testified before the United States House of Representatives to help gain spousal benefits for those who followed her. She never told me that story. She never told me how good of a swimmer she was, or how she taught swimming to hundreds of kids. She never told me she was a lifetime volunteer with the American Red Cross. Why? Because she never made it about her.

It just wouldn’t be a blog of mine without some humor, so now that Grandma’s gone, maybe it’s okay to confess. After our wedding reception, with the bubbly still flowing, Grandma wanted to see what presents Myra and I got. She unwrapped every one. The problem was she separated the cards from the gifts. So if you got a very impersonal, “Thank you for our wedding gift. We always wanted one,” note from us, now you know why.

Colonel, thank you for a lifetime of service. Thank you for our freedom. Grandma, thank you for always making feel a part of your family. Thank you for always telling it like it is. We’ll miss you greatly. May God bless you both.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Going Blond

When my daughter was an infant, she had flaming red hair. Gradually it has become blonder and blonder. I think I see why.

She likes to scroll through the phonebook on my cell phone looking for names she recognizes. Sometimes when she sees a name she doesn't know, she'll ask me about it. We do this periodically. She doesn't have great memorization skills. We had this little back-and-forth in the van the other day:

"Daddy, who is Becky M.?"

"I told you sweetie. That's Claire's mom. Remember?"

"Oh, yeah."

Click, click, click.

"Daddy…who is Sam Evans?"

"For the fourth time baby, he's Daddy's friend from The Citadel. He's the funniest guy I know."

Scroll, scroll, scroll.

Then she had an "aha" moment. I knew so because she said, "Aha!" I looked in her direction. She must have thought I'd been holding out, keeping her from the grandparent she never knew. Her gaze and her tone were accusatory.

"So Daddy…who is this Papa Johns?"

My son's eyes rolled so hard, I thought he would do a back flip in his seat. He had to be thinking "Damn!" because that's what Daddy was thinking and came close to saying out loud.

"It's the pizza place, Nikki! What are you thinking?"

"Oh," she said. And it wasn't even an I'm-so-silly "Oh," either. It was a That-explains-it "Oh."

Then it dawns on me that perhaps she's the smarter between us. Perhaps she's doing this on purpose. Hmm…

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dance Dance Revoluton

Last night my kids’ school held its annual Father/Daughter dance. Nik and I have been going since she was three, and from the very first one, these things have reminded me of every Kappa Kappa Gamma mixer I ever went to with my wife when we were in college. It goes a little something like this:

  • Walk in and register

  • Stand in line (FOREVER) for a photo that you have to buy

  • Girls see each other

  • Girls scream

  • Girls hug

  • Girl (in this case my daughter) hands me her shoes and runs off to the dance floor to dance the Electric Slide with her girlfriends

  • I sit down at the abandoned boyfriends’ (in this case, fathers’) table, eat mildly warm chicken fingers and cubed Swiss cheese, and talk sports with two people I don’t know.

At a certain point, generally when the screaming hits a pitch that sends dogs howling for 20 miles in either direction, the DJ will play something slow, usually Unchained Melody by the Righteous Brothers or Unforgettable by Natalie and Nat King Cole, and instruct the girls to dance with their dads. It’s fun and cute.

After that song, the DJ usually cranks out some rock ‘n roll from the 70s, and not disco either; it’s something like Lynard Skynard or 38 Special, something that has no regular beat and no natural rhythm. You can’t dance to it unless you’ve been smoking dope. I noticed last night that when the DJ puts on 70s rock, that’s apparently the universal signal to go get something to eat. The dance floor gets more deserted than an AA meeting at a beer festival.

Thankfully, my kids’ school ends at 8th grade, so up to this point I’ve been spared the drama of my date (in this case, my daughter) leaving me for two hours while she consoles one of her drunk girlfriends in the bathroom because that girl’s date also got tanked and called her something less than virtuous. I always hated that because the girl usually cries until she pukes, and even though you’re not the one who called her a name, you’re insensitive because you want to leave…or maybe it’s just because you have a penis. Who knows? But…I digress…

I bought photo package D. It comes with an 8X10, two 5X7s, and about 8,000 wallet-sized photos. Let me know if you want one.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Caca Del Toro. Confessions of a Copy Boy

I write for several magazines, most of them local, but to keep my style fresh, I read a lot of national publications and try to mimic the writers’ styles, pacing, rhythms, etc. I figure if these guys are good enough to be in Newsweek, Real Simple, or even People, then they’re worth studying. What I’ve noticed (and I mean years ago, not just recently) is the amount of crap (editors call it filler or fluff) in these publications.

I started to call this particular blog post Mythbusters, but since that name is already copyrighted for the TV show, let’s just call it the Bullshit-o-meter. Here we go:

The Helpful Hints articles: You know the ones I’m talking about… “Red or black paint bottle caps make dandy replacements for lost checkers;” or “You can use a worn out ironing board cover to make pot holders, mitts, or hot pads…” One even suggested covering wire hangers with fabric or wood to make a nice gift. Yeah…try that giving me that one for Christmas. You’ll need a butt surgeon. Bullshit rating: 10

The best helpful hint I’ve ever heard comes from my friend Tom Poland, another magazine writer. Tom saves all his junk mail that comes with postage paid return envelopes. At the end of the month, he takes the flyer from one piece of junk mail, stuffs it in the envelope that came with another piece, and mails the junk to the people who keep uselessly filling his mailbox. It’s a genius idea and a lot of fun, too!

This one is from Women’s Day and it’s for businesswomen who are on the road a lot, but who also miss their families terribly. The writer suggests to take along a framed picture of your kids and place it on your hotel room nightstand. Also to “maintain normalcy and a sense of stability” for the kids, set aside a certain, specified point each night that you will call your kids and have family time.

You can always tell when a writer has never worked in a business. Has this guy never heard of business dinners or late night meetings when you’re trying to bring a project into production? What happens when mommy is too busy cajoling the IT guys to make her 8:00 o’clock call? Are her kids going to dive headlong into drug abuse or prostitution? Maybe join a gang?

This rates up there with all the articles for people who are so busy that they actually have to schedule time for their spouses and kids—I mean literally key it into their PDA. By the time you get to the point where you feel it necessary to have your administrative assistant schedule family time, your kids and spouse hate you already. If you’re that damn busy, get a divorce and buy a cot so you never have to leave the office. Bullshit rating: 25 (on a scale of one to 10).

I was in a doctor’s office years ago and read a People magazine whose cover said “Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston: Hollywood’s Perfect Couple” Bullshit rating: Do I even need to say it?

I waited so long so see the doctor, that I found an issue of Us that was published about a year after the People. It said “Friends Say Brad and Jen’s Breakup Longtime in the Making.” (I’m not kidding…this is true). The same issue said that masturbation helps boost your immune system. This one’s isn’t bullshit. I haven’t had a cold in 12 years, but I got a pretty mean case of tennis elbow and rotator cuff tendonitis. Anybody got any helpful hints?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Spelling Lesson

In one of the Star Trek movies (the second one, I think) Spock called them “colorful metaphors.” Nikki, my seven-year-old, calls them,”Ooooo…bad words.” Not just “bad words;” you have to add the “Ooooo” in for effect. My son Alexey can’t stop laughing long enough to call them anything.

I spent four years as a Citadel cadet and 12 years right after that as a cop. As I usually tell people that in those settings, if you weren’t using “colorful metaphors” about every third sentence, you just weren’t having a conversation. I mean, it rather loses something in translation when you try to get a confession from someone by threatening to throw his “patooty” in jail. To quote the great modern philosopher Weird Al Yankovic, it sounds just a bit too “White and Nerdy.”

So I suppose it’s no great surprise that at ages 10 and 7, my son and daughter have heard their fair share of the seven words you can’t say on radio. It does become a sad state of affairs, however, when you get to use one as a spelling lesson.

Picture this: The four of us are trying to pull out of a Toys R Us in a very traffic-dense shopping area. We’re packed in the Ford Windstar. Mommy is driving, and somebody cuts her off.

“Idiot!” she yells slapping her palm on the steering wheel.
“Well, at least you didn’t use the ‘S’ word,” comes the accusatory, less than angelic voice of my daughter from the back seat.

Realizing I’m about to get busted, I dive in full force. “Um…which word is that, Nikki?”
“You know…” She glares at me.
“Sandwich?” I ask.

“No,” she says, shaking her head and making her reply a two-syllable word.
“Stupid?” I say, venturing into deeper waters.
“No, Daddy. You know…’s-u-n-b-i-c-h!”

Ta-da! The winner of today’s spelling bee is…not Daddy.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Venus...Goddess of Love That You Are

Yesterday, I discovered I’m not even smarter than a second grader. The school my kids go to is excellent. The teachers, some of the most caring professionals I have ever had the privilege to meet, immerse themselves in educating their students. What’s more, they are as demanding of us as parents as they are of the children. I like that. I believe it results in just the right emphasis on and investment in education. And they come up with some creative ways to teach.

My daughter has been studying our solar system. She had to read a book about Venus, but her book report was not of the written kind. She had to make a model of her planet and note cards with facts she learned from her reading.

Teachers aren’t the only relentless professionals. My wife is one, too. Consequently, I often get to be “Project Dad.” I remember when I was in elementary school, we blew up a balloon, encased it in papier-mâché, let it dry, and then painted it blue and white to create “Earth.” I learned early on that crafts weren’t really my thing. Suffice it to say had I been the creator of the universe, we would not have to worry about global warming because there would be no globe to begin with. So why, 40 years later, should Venus be any different?

None of that nasty, wet plaster of Paris crap for me. No… Hobby Lobby sells floral forms and Styrofoam balls in various sizes, one of which would make for a very nice Venus. A little matte gold colored spray paint (because, according to the book, Venus is tan or perhaps a nice taupe—see I told you I watch Bravo TV!), and we should be rockin’ and rollin’, right?

So who knew spray paint freakin’ dissolves Styrofoam?

Did God know this when he created the real deal? Is that why it took Him seven days? Because SIX hours later Venus still wasn’t dry and it was crumbling in places?

Note to self: spray paint, Styrofoam—bad

“Project Dad” has learned a few other things along the way:

1) When CVS is out of poster board, Staples has it and in the color you need, but the single sheets will be out and you’ll have to buy the 12 pack with no conceivable use for the 11 other pieces in your lifetime, until of course you tire of them curling up next to the piano and you throw them out. THEN, you’ll need a purple poster.

2) Poster board and foam core are NOT the same thing!

3) It is indeed foam core and not foam cord, and if you ask the pimply-faced kid at Staples for the latter, you will receive the most condescending zit face stare down of your meager existence.

4) The term “washable markers” doesn’t necessarily mean the color disappears from your heirloom lace dining room tablecloth, “WHICH WAS A PRESENT FROM MY GRANDMOTHER!” It means the stray marks get wet in the washer and baked on in the dryer. (Does yelling something make it more factual? Perhaps that’s another blog).

5) “What’s wrong with regular paper and thumbtacks?” is not the proper response to the teacher’s requirement that the science project be presented on the three-panel presentation board available at your local office supply store.

Venus made it to school this morning, though with a few more paint-induced craters than the real thing. Mercury wasn’t so lucky. I saw it skittering across the parking lot as the kid who made it tripped on the sidewalk. The planet now has a flat side. Perhaps now we stand a chance at a decent grade!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Saved from the Embarrassment

Tonight is the big night—the debut of the Timmerman School production of The Little Mermaid ballet.

Tuesday night, we had dress rehearsal. No, I didn’t get to do my “Lobster Rap,” but to the utter dismay of my daughter, I did go buy a pair of size 13 ballet slippers and I put on my old wrestling tights. I am, after all, playing the role of King Triton.

Again, I mortified my little princess, but fate, it appears, has stepped in to save her from total embarrassment. I will be unable to wear the tights for the performances. I have been out of the professional wrestling world for nearly 10 years. It has been that long since I have slipped on my gear, and apparently, I have become a little rounder. (Taller would make me feel better, but let’s be honest here).

I put on my tights, excited to do that once again, a thousand memories sailing through my brain—Ricky Steamboat, Wahoo McDaniel, the Super Enforcer, the Patriot, the Dorton Arena (my first television match), the Winthrop Coliseum, The Florence Civic Center. The first sign that they weren’t quite the fit they used to be was, as I slipped my arms through the straps, I felt my genitalia push up into my abdominal cavity. I’ll suffer anything in the name of art, even becoming a castrato, I told myself. However, when the waistline of the leggings kept folding over threatening to drop down around my knees, I knew I was done for.

Then my daughter practically begged me not to wear them because she didn’t think it was right for me “to have my boobies showing.”

I agree.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Hey, Governor...Examine Your Zipper!

Allow me to recycle a lawyer joke: Do you know why South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford wears a necktie? To keep the foreskin from flipping up over his face. That’s right. My governor, my leader, the steward and chief executive of my state is a walking, talking, giant penis.

He has said on a national stage that he will turn down $700 million of federal stimulus money headed toward South Carolina. His favorite metaphor, which he has used on the local news as well as in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal is this: “…if you’re in a hole, the first order of business is to stop digging.”

Yes, I could stoop to make another anatomical reference from that comment, but I’ll refrain. I will continue the metaphor, though, and say this to my governor: “If you’re already in a hole that’s over your head, you might as well join everybody else at the bottom.” When it gets cold, they just might share a blanket. If you’re hungry, they may feed you, but you’ll get none of that perched upon your “principled”, self-righteous ledge, and you won’t be any better off. Does that make sense to you, there Dick….er, Mark?

To understand the Gov, you need a little background. Several years ago, he got voted into Congress. His hallmark was sleeping on a couch in his office rather than renting an apartment at taxpayer expense. He also abided by a self-imposed term limit. Those were, in total, his greatest accomplishments.

How much of the legislation he proposed got passed? Zero. When the vote came up to support a breast cancer stamp for the post office, out of 435 members of Congress, three voted against it. Guess who was one of the three? This is principled leadership?

Here’s the real deal. Mark Sanford is the eighth-grade kid with the horn-rimmed glasses who always ran the projector; the panty-waste, math geek know-it-all who was always standing there to say, “I told you so.” He’s so taken with watching the bottom line that had he been a civil rights marcher in the 1960s, he would have checked his wallet for bail money before he ever hoisted a sign. He’s principled all right; it’s just that his principles and his vision are limited by dollar signs.

In his inaugural speech, did John Kennedy say we would put a man on the moon by then end of the decade if we had the budget for it? No. Did Ronald Reagan say, “Mr. Gorbachev, if you have enough money, it would be nice if you considered spending some of it on taking down this wall?” Somehow I remember that line as more commanding, decisive, and powerful.

What is so utterly stupid about Dick’s stance on the stimulus money is this: if we don’t take it, the $700 million will go to another state and WE WILL STILL HAVE TO PAY IT BACK as if we had received it. Some right-wingers across the country have hailed Sanford as the new conservative messiah. They want him to run for president in 2012. I wish him well. Anything to get him the hell out of here. A word of advice, however. If you draft him to run, make sure he brings his eyes, ears, arms, and legs. Otherwise, you’ll just get the walking penis, and you don’t want him screwing the country like he’s screwing us.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Vegetarian Vampires...Yeah, Right

Far be it for me to judge a book by the movie extracted from it. And who am I to criticize Stephenie Meyer, an author whose sales are more in the 50 million range versus the (perhaps) 50 books I sold last year? So let me stick to the movie itself.

To steal a line from my younger friends’ texting…WTF???!!?

A VEGETARIAN vampire. Gimme a break, but if Meyer’s (and the producer’s) visualization of a “vegetarian” vampire is one who sucks only animal blood, then let’s see it. I know it’s rated PG-13 for the tween crowd, but even most of them have seen hyenas tearing into a zebra on Wild Kingdom. Once or twice the film shows blood on the vampires’ lips, but damn, I’ve seen more blood than that when I cut myself shaving.

Trashing nearly 100 years of movie tradition and probably another 100 of vampire lore, the undead in this flick CAN come out in the sun. The only reason they don’t is because when sunlight hits their skin, they glisten “like diamonds” and people would immediately know they are different. Ahhh… Wrong again, bucko! Everybody knows vampires don’t come out in the sun BECAUSE SUNLIGHT KILLS THEM. Just like silver bullets and wooden stakes to the heart.

Then there’s the scene where Bella (the love struck human) visits vampire Edward’s home. It’s not a LAIR…oh, no. It’s a 7,500 square-foot mountain villa with lots of glass, sculpture, and bright colors. It’s straight out of Architectural Digest. When Bella expresses surprise, Edward says, “What were you expecting? Coffins, dungeons, and moats?”

Well..ah…YES! Because (again as everybody knows) vampires sleep during the day in COFFINS because SUNLIGHT KILLS THEM.

And what’s with all this leaping around in the treetops crap? Did the vegetarian vampires eat a family of flying squirrels? Hey Edward, you’re UNDEAD, not superhuman.

And speaking of Edward, British actor Robert Pattinson who played the part said he based his accent and portrayal on James Dean. If there’s a sequel, here’s a tip. Go back and watch East of Eden or Rebel Without a Cause a few more times. The way you played it, it was as if you were auditioning for the next Queer Eye. There’s angst, and then there’s just being a puss. Guess which one you were.

All of this sarcasm just to say this. It’s not that Stephenie Meyer’s characters, at least as they are portrayed in this movie, aren’t interesting and believable, they’re just not believable as vampires any more than if I threw on an eye patch and called myself a pirate. But if I did and made a movie, there would be blood, and swords, and swashbuckling (whatever that is), and my movie would be rated (wait for it), “Aaarrrrrr!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

So Who Fiddles While Your Uterus Burns?

Madison Avenue may be ruled by men, but in my little corner of the universe, the advertising, marketing, and communications industry where I have spent the last 12 years of my career is dominated by women. Women understand that all buying decisions—from your brand of soap to multi-billion dollar acquisitions—are determined by emotion. Women emote better. They communicate better; therefore, the industry is commanded by some extraordinarily talented and intelligent females.

As a result, I have had plenty of women co-workers, many of whom have become my friends. I contend that I’m one of a handful of straight men in America who watches Bravo TV, so at lunch, I can talk with the best of them about Project Runway, Top Chef, America’s Next Top Model, and Sheer Genius. I even do a pretty mean Tim Gunn impression that has brought my sexuality into question a time or two. That’s okay. I’m secure.

The downside is that my XX chromosome buddies often forget there is an XY chromosome combination at the table (namely, me) and sometimes the conversations turn to things only women should talk about. I have discovered, for example, that if you’re trying to get pregnant, some people suggest putting your feet up after sex to help the sperm swim downward. Others advise taking a certain cough medicine to thin out the membrane that the sperm swim upon.

Here is my take on that: eeewwww! Yuck. Pass me a barf bag. It’s probably the male coming out in me, but I don’t need to know how the car is made, just tell me where to stick the key, if you get my drift.

It was icky enough in 9th grade science class. Do we really have to talk about this kind of thing now over sushi?

I took an English course at the University of South Carolina once. One of my friends there asked me to tell the professor she wouldn’t be in class one day because she was going to try out for a part in The Vagina Monologues. Can you say that kind of thing out loud?? Is it simply for shock value? I just told the prof she was sick. It was easier.

Today at lunch one of my friends explained how tomorrow she will have her uterus burned.

Pass the ketchup, please.

It will stop her period.

How nice. Cancel that ketchup. I don’t want it anymore.

But enough ranting for today. I must get back to writing. I’m working on a play about a guy who wants to be a urologist. It’s called I Studied for My Testicles. It’s only equitable that I get my turn to talk about it, my friends, next time we go eat hotdogs. Turnabout, they say, is fair play.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Surrounded by the Junior League

So at long last we get to baseball game number 2. Four weeks have past since game 1. Two have been cancelled by weather, and one because the league officials didn't bother to check the standardized testing schedule before they made out the game roster.

According to the calendar, spring begins next week. It's been overcast all day. Tonight a fine mist chills the air, forms little ice crystals, and makes the surfaces of the aluminum bleachers as slick and cold as an ice rink. For the second little league game in a row, we've broken out the coats and blankets and paid for hot chocolate.

To top it all off, tonight I'm surrounded by the junior league.

Umpire: "Batter up!"

Coaches and assorted team members: "Come on Joey. Good eye. Outta the park, baby!"

Buffy, oblivious that her son is pitching: "I rushed right over from tennis. I don't USUALLY play singles, but we have so few who are willing and Grace Anne practically BEGGED to put me in the line up."

Umpire: "Ball one"

Muffy: "Yes, Grace Anne and I were having a triple latte mocca frappacina ice at Starbucks on Tuesday and she said she had agreed to play. I was practically bowled over that you agreed. How wonderful, Buffy. By the by, how's Chad's business faring in the current crisis?"

Umpire: "Ball two."

Buffy: "Oh, he had to let go a few of his Mexicans, but he'll get by."

Umpire: "Ball three!"

Mary Margaret: "I'm glad to hear that, Buffy. Phillip is not doing so well. We may even have to cancel little Avery's tennis lessons (tear up, sniff, sniff). She's okay with it. I'm sure she'll manage somehow with ballet, violin, and French lessons...but I think she'll miss tennis. You know how she loves to whack things."

Let me hear you utter that sentence when she's 16.

Umpire: "Ball four. Take your base."

Buffy: "Oh, look. The referee is sending that young man on to base. Wouldn't it just be marvelous if they used racquets instead of those sticks?"

Tonight, there's not even the drone of an Arctic rescue plane. Someone please hand me a visor, (and perhaps a vodka tonic) so at least I'll blend in...

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Maybe It's Just Me

I paid a nice long visit to my cardiologist today, long partly because of the time I got to spend in the waiting room. I have the same attention span as my kids and after a while, I started looking around in search of something to do. The first thing I noticed was a dearth of magazines, which, as a writer for a handful of periodicals, rather irked me. The second thing I noticed was a Gideon Bible on every single end table in the place.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Christian, but aren’t we sending the wrong message here? Bibles in the cardiologist’s office? Following that logic, shouldn’t they allow funeral home calendars and catalogs from casket companies, too?

It’s all a little too “Last Rites” for me.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Language of Sex

The American Dialect Society routinely names a “Word of the Year,” a new entry into the American English language that is emblematic of the tone, the atmosphere, or the “buzz” for that year. The Word of the Year, for example in 2007, was “Subprime.” Doesn’t that sum it up nicely? Just the sound of it makes me want to rouse a mob with torches and pitchforks and head over to my nearest banker’s house.

In 2000, the ADS also chose a word of the millennium. It was the word “she,” which prior to the year 1000 did not exist. The Old English word for the fairer sex in 999 AD was “heo.” It changed, according to scholars, because it sounded to much like “he,” and a gender who won’t even wear the same color dress that another woman has on to the same event, just couldn’t have that. Oh, no sir-eeeee.

(“Sir” came from “sire, by the way, which means “senior” because men, allegedly came first to the earth, but that’s a man thing and really doesn’t matter, so to all my women friends, just forget I mentioned it).

Yep, like a superhero, they just added an “S” to their chests, and what a nice “S” it was. And rather than faking the big “O,” they just dropped it all together.

Linguists say all language is metaphorical. If this example isn’t a metaphor for life, I don’t know what is.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

In general, I try to say something light and funny here just to make this blog interesting reading. I’ll continue to strive for humor, but today I want to say something a little more serious about my fellow authors from Echelon Press and Quake.

These comments (like my last posting, which I hope you found somewhat funny) flow out of the recent book festival. Just last week, someone (a PR Professional), told me that all communication is a performance. I agree, but for it to be effective, I believe it has to be sincere. So many times at these festivals, authors assume some holier-than-thou personas. They appear to believe that because a publisher has published their book or books, they are somehow a notch or two above the hoi polloi. They expect a line at their signing tables.

I suspect that some of these folks are well meaning, but have fallen victim to their own visualization of success—you know…if you’re going to be taken seriously as a member of the literati, you must act the part and believe in yourself. I had one tell me Saturday that he had sold 27,000 copies of his book in just the first three months of last year, yet the publisher had only sent a $4,000 royalty check thus far. (I mean really, Muffy!!!—that’s me being snide and funny)

Seeing these authors makes me appreciate the people with whom I share the Echelon booth. We’re all real people. Certainly we think our books represent the best products at the show. If you don’t think your book is the next blockbuster, then you don’t need to be out there selling it. It's really up to us to make a compelling case that our books are the best ones out there. Still we seem to approach selling with a level of respect for our readers as well as our fellow authors that, to me, is remarkable.
We expect a line of people at our table because we’re fun, accessible, and engaging. We’re kind of like the NASCAR of authors only without the cool suits, fast cars, sponsors, big rig trailers…well, you know what I mean!

Every time I attend a book festival with any combination of Echelon authors, I am blown away by their sheer talent. I’m grateful to be counted in their ranks, and more importantly from my standpoint, I appreciate the humility and respect with which we all treat each other.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Postpartum Book Festival Blues

We just finished a run at the South Carolina Book Festival. As usual, despite the weather, it was a great event. We sold well. Everyone seemed to have a good time.

Now, maybe it’s just me; maybe I’m just tired. I know we’re supposed to have our game faces on. We smile. We compliment the lady on her beautiful necklace just to engage her in conversation to hopefully make a sale. We ask the gentleman, “How did Carolina do in the game last night? Did Zam score plenty?” for the same purpose.

Here’s my quandary. I sometimes ask, as many of my fellow authors do, “What do you like to read?” (hoping, of course, they will say “Police thrillers,” so I can sell them my book!).

Then there’s the kicker: “Oh, I don’t like to read,” or the curt alternative, “I don’t read books.”

Say what? Then why are you at a BOOK FESTIVAL????!!!


Do philatelists hoping to add to their stamp collections root around football stadiums filled with half-drunk, rowdy, popcorn-and-Coke-laden, jersey-wearing fans? Do sci-fi enthusiasts head over to the Kenny Chesnee concert dressed like Darth Vader hoping to meet some blue-skinned chick with horns coming out of her head?

Hell no. They don’t go to these places. So why, then, are you in a room filled with books and authors if you don’t like to read? Isn’t that like watching Telemundo and not speaking a word of Spanish?

It’s not just South Carolina with our lack of interest for anything that doesn’t involve a gun, liquor, or a four-wheel drive vehicle. We get that response in Chicago and Los Angeles, too.

I got a tip for you. Why don’t y’all start your own “I Don’t Like Books Festival?” You can gather in a room full of empty booths and sit around not reading a damn thing to each other. You’d LOVE an event like this.

Maybe it’s just me…maybe I’m tired. I’m going to take a nap!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Sam's Parenting Tip #37

When you are in the car with your kids and they are bickering—and I mean incessant, constant back-and-forth arguing over nothing important at all—I have a great solution I discovered (and tested) yesterday. I’ll likely use it repeatedly just for fun or until they quit griping at each other, whichever comes first.

The kids will be so focused on each other and who is "right" they’ll never see this coming. As they are engaged in heated, irritating debate, pretend you’re about to have an accident—take in a sharp breath, slam on brakes, and scream!

It is freakin’ hilarious, and it stops all conversation, including the argument!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Of Governors, Pennies, and Chicken


If you're offended by bad language, and I mean terrible, awful, yucky four-letter words, SKIP this entry. There. If you read it and still wind up getting pissed, it's on you, my friend.


Every time I visit the closest KFC to my house, I think about Dick Riley, President Clinton’s education secretary, an incongruous thought, I admit, but here’s why.

When I was a kid in the 70s, Riley, then our governor in South Carolina, told us if the voters would approve a 1 cent hike in our sales tax, he could direct that money to our schools and within a matter of years, we’d have a state chock full of geniuses.
Now a lot of you know that we have a saying here in the Palmetto State—“Thank God for Mississippi”—since they are perennially ranked 50th in education in the U.S. After nearly 40 years and millions of pennies in sales tax, we’re still number 49. All the proof you need of this failed policy stands behind the counter at KFC in West Columbia.

Every time I go to this place, they never have original recipe. It’s always a 20 minute wait while it cooks. Set aside the fact that original recipe is what made the Colonel and the restaurant world famous, all these people sell is chicken! What the hell do they think the “FC” stands for in “KFC?” I’m not asking them to explain string theory. All I’m asking for is CHICKEN!!!! Bone in, skin on, rolled in flour with the Colonel’s special spices and dropped into a freakin’ deep-fat-fryer chicken!

You would think that after million of pennies given to their school districts one of them would occasionally glance at the rack under the heat lamp, and when he or she sees only 10 or so pieces left, would say “Drop some more chicken.” Hell, they wouldn’t even have to say it. They could bang a metal spoon on the countertop—one bang for original recipe, two bangs for extra crispy. Use grunts, smoke signals, sign language, I don’t care, just cook the damn chicken!

So why in the midst in an economic crisis, two wars, a crumbling Social Security system, and any number of healthcare crises, am I worried about KFC? Simple. Without going into the compelling reasons why, my diet consists mainly of grilled chicken, anything you can make out of ground turkey, broiled fish, and lots of fruits and vegetables, so every five months or so when the mood hits and the blood sugars allow, I WANT MY ORIGINAL RECIPE FRIED CHICKEN, dammit.

Yesterday, I wanted original recipe. Yesterday there was a 20 minute wait.

Dick Riley, you can bet all the pennies in your pocket, if I ever come across you, pal, I’m going to beat the livin’ shit out of you. Have a great day.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Parenthood is awesome. Last Saturday I had ballet practice. Yes, ballet. I am King Triton in my daughter’s ballet company’s production of The Little Mermaid. Just to jazz things up, I prepared a rap to perform and auditioned it for the instructor:

I’d like to talk to you about my frustration
With crabs and the shrimps and the other crustaceans
Those tropical fishes, they got the groove
And that freaky jellyfish can bus’ a move

All the lobsters in the house putcha hands up!

It mortified my daughter.

Last night, my son had baseball practice, and at the risk of sounding like a whiner to my friends in places like the Poconos, it was 28 degrees outside. When it’s 28 in South Carolina, we deplete the grocery stores of all their bread and milk. We don’t drive. And we certainly don’t practice baseball.

Apparently we do—from 7-9 p.m. Did I mention it was 28 degrees?

I don’t know who was bitching more, the kids whose skin was becoming frozen to their aluminum bats, the kids whose fingers were cracking with each caught ball, or me. Good bet it was me. At one point I heard a plane overhead. I scanned the sky for it looking for skis where wheels should have been. God please let it be some arctic rescue operation, I thought.

Earlier that day, I had bought my son a cup. I also bought a jock strap and something they didn’t have when I played ball—compression pants. They’re like a tight-fitting pair of boxer shorts with a pocket for the cup. My son preferred the compression pants.

As the temperature dipped and wind began to increase, I looked for something to protect my frostbitten ears. You got it—the unused jock strap with its wide elastic waistband. I put it over my head, the leg straps dangling by my shoulders. Ahhhh…nirvana. Not pretty, but warm, by golly.

At some point, Alexey looked over at me.

I mortified my son.

I’m two for two this week. Ain’t parenthood sweet?